Ambushed

The day after my Lord’s pilgrimage, Mr. FM suggested we take a quiet drive into the Cotswolds, some few miles north-west of FM Towers. He knows that I’m not one for scenic drives just for the drive’s sake, so he mentioned the magical words “in the Porsche” — and needless to say, that was sufficient incentive for me to agree.

So we footled around along English country roads — me oohing and aaahing at Teh Scenery, which is spectacular: rolling hills, forest glades, farmers doing Farming Things, etc. Of course, it being a lovely day (sunny, warm, bees buzzing lazily etc.) there were the usual problems (i.e. cyclists), but the oncoming roar of a 3.6-liter Porsche engine usually had the desired effect of sending them flying into roadside ditches, which is all part of the fun of a summer drive. Then things took a turn for the worse. Much worse.

We turned off the country road onto what can best be described as a farm road and ended up at a series of farm-type buildings. Over the door of one such building was a sign which read, cryptically, “R.J. Blackwall”. What place is this, I wondered, and then we went inside.

 

Rupert Blackwall is one of the pre-eminent Mauser dealers in the British Isles.

O My Readers, I need first to give you a teeny bit of background so you can fully appreciate what was to follow. In the Great Time Of Poverty when I was forced to sell almost all my guns, I found myself, for the first time in my life, Mauserless. Never mind Mauser lookalikes or derivatives thereof; ever since I can remember, I’ve had at least one actual Mauser rifle in my gun cabinet — in fact, my very first gun purchase in the U.S. was a Mauser 98K. Since the Great Poverty, some four years ago, I’ve been without a Mauser — a fact I’d once lamented to Mr. FM, en passant — and only now did his devilment come to light. You see, he’d seen my reaction to the exquisite M12 I’d fired only a week before at the Corinium range and thus, I believe, had schemed a visit to this… this temple to Vulcan’s Dark Arts.

Of course, that’s not how he played it, the foul man; he chatted with Mr. Blackwall — a gunsmith of considerable skill and knowledge, having been trained at E.J. Churchill — about some rifle he was considering for his next African safari, leaving me to wander around the store and browse among (actually, drool over) the store’s wares.

First I saw a matched pair of AyA 20-gauge side-by-side shotguns (which I will need for future High Bird Shooting excursions), but I knew that the cost thereof was going to be silly: and in pounds sterling, still more so. With a deep sigh, I moved on. Until I came to the “second-hand” rack…

..and there it was: a barely-fired Mauser M12, in… 6.5x55mm (my favorite medium caliber of all), at a price that, when translated into U.S. greenbacks, was not expensive at all. In fact, it was… affordable.

Of course, one can’t just buy a rifle and walk out of the door with it, not in Merrie Olde England, oh no. In fact, I thought that I would not be able to purchase any gun, because (as we all know) in the U.S. such things are streng verboten (as I’d discovered when first I emigrated and wanted to buy a gun). Well, no. In the U.S., not anyone can buy a gun, but anyone can own a gun (mostly). In Britain, it’s the reverse. I could buy the gun, but I couldn’t take possession of it — it would have to go onto a British gun owner’s license — until such time as I would leave the U.K. And of course, standing right next to me, with an evil leer on his aristocratic features, there was just such a British gun owner.

All that remained was to give Mr. Blackwall my credit card.

I’ll be “testing” it over the coming weeks at Corinium, once I get a decent scope on it. Range report(s) and pics to follow.

And most important of all, I am no longer Mauserless, so all my old Boer forefathers can stop spinning in their graves.

OMG Lord’s

So scratch this item off Ye Olde Buckette Lyst. Yes, I went to watch England play South Africa on Day 2 of the First Test match. Here’s the Grace entrance (named after the 19th-century cricketer, W.G. Grace, sometimes called the father of cricket).

Here’s the view from my seat in the Edrich stand. The Members’ Pavilion is the brick building on the right.

I’m not going to describe the action on the field, because it would be incomprehensible to most of my Loyal Readers (and the Brit Readers would have seen the highlights already anyway).

Some impressions of Lord’s.

1.) The ground was full to the brim, but for some reason, Lord’s has not worked out how to manage crowds. Lines into the several (not many) pubs, restaurants and snack bars were long and service was slow. Given that most of the people are there to watch cricket, and the breaks in play are short, this means that a huge number of people are going to miss parts of the match, and they did.
2.) The seats are all padded, and very comfortable. Compared to most all-metal seats in U.S. baseball grounds, at Lord’s you sit in comfort (a huge plus when the game starts at 11am and finishes after 6pm).
3.) With the exception of some visiting fans (Seffricans, ’nuff said), the crowd are fairly well-behaved, despite an astonishing amount of booze served. (Seriously; you may buy champagne by the magnum, and take it back to your seat.)

On this specific day, my fears of rain interrupting or even ending play were completely unfounded. It was sunny, and searingly hot (temps around 95F). I got sunburned — blisters-on-my-skin sunburned. Not to put too fine a point on it, I burned like a British person. My Afrikaner dad is doubtless spinning in his grave that my neck is in fact red.

Here’s one thing I noticed: the women who go to cricket are, with the exception of the Seffrican chicks, all impeccably upper-class. How did I know? By the way they looked. I did not see a single tattoo on a woman, all day — and in the heat, let me tell you, there was a lot of womanflesh on display. Here’s a representative sample:

When I later commented on the non-tattooed women to Mrs. Free Market, she remarked dryly, “Well, cricket’s a sensible game, isn’t it?”

My kinda people.

Despite the heat, despite the loud Seffrican spectators, despite the long lines to the service areas and despite the lousy play of the South African team, I was at Lord’s.

Words cannot express my pleasure, and my gratitude to the Free Markets for making it possible.

Trigger Time 1

Tomorrow afternoon, Mr. FM and I will be off to Royal Bisley or somewhere to shoot some guns. For my stay, my generous host has reached deep into his gun safe(s) and made available to me the following:

From the top, they are

  • Blaser R93 in 6.5x55mm Swede (my favorite medium cartridge of all time) — Mr. FM even put a wooden stock back onto the piece for me, such is his hospitality — and yes, that’s a Swarovski 4-12x scope resting on it.
  • GMK Kestrel in 20ga. I cannot wait to put this little beauty through her paces, but she’ll have to wait till we get to a sporting clay facility.
  • Norwegian Army surplus K98 “Sniper” in 7.62x51mm NATO — ooooh, baby, come to Papa. (I may try to buy this one from Mr. FM, but I fear his hospitality does have some limits, damn it.)

There will also be some .300 WinMag frivolity — apparently, Combat Controller left his Scotland Deer Slayer rifle and a few hundred rounds of “test” ammo behind, and wants me to make sure his rifle still functions properly after an accident the last time he was Over Here. Well, who can resist the request of a friend, right?

No doubt my shoulder will be owie after all that fun, but a few pints of 6X / gin should take care of it.

Feel free to vent feelings of jealous rage, etc. in Comments.

Downsides

Now I don’t want you folks to think that staying at Free Market Towers is all Wadworth 6X, Full English Breakfasts and flogging of servants. Oh no. There are several downsides to all of this which burden the soul of your Humble Narrator. Here’s one.

Lying carelessly scattered upon a coffee table is the John Rigby gun catalogue, which features many a fine piece of weaponry. Now Rigby & Co. are not known for shoddy workmanship and never have been, and their prices reflect this. Here’s one such product that made my trigger-finger itch, and a low moan escaped my mouth. It’s the Rigby Rising Bite Double Rifle, chambered in the famous .416 Rigby caliber, and the Nitro Express (magnum) .450/400, .470, .500, .577, and .600:

…and here’s a close-up of the breech:

That was the cause of the itch.

Now here’s the cause of the moan: the reason there’s the word “Bite” in the description is because of what the purchase thereof will do to your wallet. You see, this gorgeous piece will set you back around $110,000.

Worse yet, there’s a three-year waiting list.

And next to the Rigby catalogue is the one from James Purdey & Sons, which I have not yet had the strength to open.

I don’t know if I can endure such hardship.

Not Since 1971

Last night was the cricket match between the local team (for which Mr. FM’s Son&Heir plays) and a team from one of the neighboring villages.

The previous night had seen the rain bucketing down and more was forecast for the evening, so I quite expected the match to be called off. Not so; these lads from Hardy Country are, well, hardy, and the match started promptly at 6:15pm — shortened because the light was terrible (low, ominous black clouds), and they only expected to get a couple of hours’ play in, even without any rain.

I expected to find a dodgy little field with bumps and lumps all over the place; instead was a pitch I’d have happily played on myself, on the outskirts of the town — and in fact, it had won a prize for “Best in County”. Here’s the clubhouse (complete with advertising hoardings, alas, but someone has to pay the bills, I suppose):

The visitors took the field, clad in traditional white

…and the game began:

I’m not going to go into a ball-by-ball account of the game, because it will be largely incomprehensible to the majority of my Loyal Readers and in any event, I need to get that second cup of coffee into me. One incident, however, had me in stitches of laughter.

One of our lads, a strapping fellow named Stan, hit a towering six (home run equivalent) clear over the road and over one of the neighboring houses, as marked:

Someone among the spectators wasn’t watching, and when the cry of “Six! Six!” went up, he asked, “Where did it go?”

“Over the house where the Angry People live!” came the response, and I fell over laughing, because I knew exactly what they were referring to.

You see, the people living in said house were among those tools who move into a place where some activity is going on, and then proceed to complain about said activity (e.g. people who move into a house in an airport’s flight landing path, and then complain about the jet noise). And thus it was with this bunch. They’d bought a house next to a cricket pitch, and then were somehow surprised when cricket balls began raining into their front lawn during a cricket match. (To be honest, it’s a hell of a distance — the pic has foreshortened the distance between pitch and house — so it’s never actually raining cricket balls, but over the years, I guess it does add up.)

The irate home owners had once even called the police to complain. (The rozzers showed up, looked at the pitch and the cricketers, said, “Nice shot,” and left, no doubt after telling the Angry People to stop being dickheads, very politely of course.)

Anyway, our lads won in a nail-biter — the match was decided on the very last ball — and so the inevitable celebration followed at the local pub (both visitors and home team drinking their pints together in utterly convivial fashion). Here was my contribution, one of several:

Mr. Free Market himself was unable to attend — some capitalist stuff about making money and grinding the working classes underfoot — but I kept him abreast of the match via text. So I sent him the final score (along with his Son&Heir’s contribution, a doughty 27 not out — i.e. he was still batting when play was called), and then after telling him that our lads had won, I sent an afterthought:

Actually, cricket won.”

Complete sportsmanship, applause for good play regardless of which team performed them, and only one fielding error in nearly three hours’ cricket.

As the somewhat cryptic title of this post states, I hadn’t watched a live cricket match since 1971 — a Test match between South Africa and Australia — but I’ll be at the next village match on Wednesday evening, and two days later I’ll be at Lord’s to watch South Africa play England.

“Happiness” does not begin to describe how I feel.

Adventures in Britishland 1

Went into the local town (Devizes) today to get stuff, e.g. a local burner phone so I can call friends etc. Over Here without getting bent over the Roaming Desk and raped by the phone company while having my wallet emptied. Here’s where I was forced to go:

Wait a minute… what was that espied by my little eye?

Looks like I’ll be buying dinner tonight…